tv Oral Histories CSPAN September 11, 2016 3:00am-4:01am EDT
the 9/11 attack was really the second attack on the world trade center. in 1993, a saudi-connected and funded terrorist group bond the parking garages the world trade center. my question is, should it a look back be to the complacenc'y be to the complacency of the u.s. government going as far back as 1993 and then leading up to 9/11? a general proposition, i would say, yes. in fact, there were some ties because one of the two people who are identified as being the principal protectors of the three people in san diego was a man named thought non-who had in peripherally involved in the first attack back in 1993. there may be some evidence from
relationship of saudi arabia to the perpetrators , which might start the trail of information that would lead to their involvement in 9/11. again, that's the kind of information which in open thatssion with materials have in held, made available, could probably answer. announcements before the last question. if you upcoming programs. september 8, efforts to secure new gun control and solution. greg walden will be here to discuss efforts to keep and build on the gop house majority on the i'm with the donald trump. and then secretary ash carter will speak.
you, beforetion to we go to the book signing, which will be in the room next door. as the former chair of the senate intelligence committee, what do you think of donald trump now receiving classified briefings? senator graham: i think it is not only in the tradition of recent years, but it is very valuable that a person not show up on the first day of the job as president of the united states ignorant about what the conditions in the world that affect the security of the united states might be. as you might recall, when harry truman suddenly became president over the death of franklin roosevelt, he did not even know that the atomic bomb was under development. he was a fast learner. but we come in the complex world that we live today, having a person assume that ultimate
commander in chief responsibility ignored of the that were then operative i think would be very much adverse to our national security. so i'm pleased that he is andiving these briefings i'm assuming that he will be for theand treat them sensitivity that they represent. >> thank you, senator. the senator will be signing next or. accuray much. senator graham: good. [applause] which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute,
making of donald trump" which takes a look at the republican presidential nominee. i immediately recognize that he is pc barnum. he is selling your tickets to the fiji mermaid and the amazing to headed woman. then i started -- because he was the dominant force in atlantic city, i started asking about him and his competitors, including steve wynn, and people who work for him and the gamblers and they all told me that donald doesn't know anything about the casino business. announcer: c-span remembers september 11, 2001 through americans who were at the white house, the u.s. capitol, the white house and the pentagon. in this interview, major heather ey recounts how she and another pilot were dispatched from andrews air force base to intercept a plane headed for washington.
their planes were unarmed and she describes what she was prepared to do to bring down a plane piloted by terrorists. this is about an hour. >> the morning of september 11, 2001, how did it begin for you? justey: we had departed on a red flag deployment and had returned back home that early saturday. so the commanders had given the vast majority of the full-time force, which really was not that many folks at that point in time , a path for tuesday to be able -- from monday to be able to reconnect with their families. so tuesday was really the first time we are getting back to work. to had beenitional deployed were back off during
their normal civilian jobs. so where are -- so we were kind of settling back into the groove and planning out the week. that morning on tuesday was really just an average morning, getting up, eating my cheerios, driving into work. very normal. just >> at about a quarter to 9:00, when the first reports game of the plane hitting the first of the two world trade center's, what was your reaction? major penney: i was in the middle of a scheduling meeting. we were planning out the weekend the month as well am i looking at what our training priorities would be, are check right priorities, looking at our range times, transitioning the jets into a new phase of training and a new phase of flight. through a lot of the administration details, getting back into our training rhythm, when a knock came at the
door. an enlisted person opened up the door and said, hey, someone flew into the world trade center. we looked at each other. we looked out the windows. as everyone remembers and washington, d.c., it was a crystalline september morning. , very clear day. it was lovely. and we all kind of looked at each other really puzzled because, normally, the weather patterns in d.c. are not that different from what they are in new york. and we all kind of laughed, wow, what kind of bozo really botched his instrument approach going into new york without some small general airplane, maybe aviation, made a mistake coming down the hudson river. --laughed a little bit of it a little bit about a because we had no concept of the magnitude of what had occurred. we didn't understand that it was
was -- which which would realistically dent a building, as opposed to reality of what it really was. we did not understand. >> where were you when you saw the first pictures of the gaping hole on the side of the world trade center? after we got the first word, we went back to our meeting. we continue to discuss and plan out the week in the fighting -- the flying schedule is normal. because we did not understand or have any way to comprehend the information regarding how serious the situation was. so it wasn't until the second aircraft struck the second world trade center that are listed , aks came in and said, hey second or plane hit the world trade center. it was on purpose. the meeting immediately dissolved and we went to actually see what was reported on the media and look at the television.
that is when i think all of us really understood on a visceral level that the world had changed. in 2001, that time, what was your job? what were your responsibilities? major penney: i was a first lieutenant. i had just gotten onto the fighter squadron in 2001. i was the training officer. i was in charge of managing and tracking the combat training that we do, it's continuation training for all her fighter arets, to ensure they ready" five for all the events that we are able to do, whether that is air to air dogfighting, air to air intercepts, missile shoots, bombings, things like that. that was my job, to manage and ensure that everybody was qualified to do that. that is part of what we were doing during that scheduling training meeting. i was still a young fighter pilot learning my trade. steve: where is andrews in
connection to washington, d.c.? re-stationed there in 2001? , that is wherees it is located. the dca or national guard, the one 21st spider squadron is on the east side of the base, which is only about eight nautical miles as the crow flies from the pentagon. walk us through the morning after the second plane hit the second tower. what was happening? who are you talking to? what was the reaction at andrews among your colleagues? major penney: there was initially a lot of confusion remember,f you can you know, 10 years ago, there was really -- there were no air defense units. the air defense units, which had been stood up and used to postulate that the content -- the continental u.s. to defend our sovereign soil from the , when the soviet
union collapsed, that had been drawn down significantly throughout the 1990's erin -- 1990's. it was no longer part of that defense mission. we were an air force unit designed to go to war, not designed to protect american soil. as a result, our chain of command didn't go up to norad, did not go up to the first air force. so when the first aircraft hit the trade center and it was clear to norad and first air force that they needed to defend america's skies, they had no method to be able to reach down or even really to know that the d.c. national guard was there in d.c. and was available. there was no clear authority to
be able to reach down to us. so just as they could not reach -- to us, we had no way out no way to reach out to them to get authorization to go fly. so there was a lot of confusion. as a young wing man, the most i can do was stand there and be ready to be tasked, as i watched my leadership in a very creative and ad hoc way try to reach out through their chain of command to be able to get authority to launch. steve: i want to come back to the timeline, but how do you prepare for something like this? how did you prepare prior to 9/11? major penney: i didn't. [laughter] no -- because that wasn't one of our doctrinal tasking's, there was no alert training for me as a wing man. my job was to learn how to go to war. my job wasn't learn how to set alert. there were no rules of engagement. about, youen thought
know, what that kind of mission might be like on american soil. -- defensive counter air, which is probably the closest i had trained to come a something that is typically planned for us in the order, to protecte might do the base overseas, but not something we had thought about regarding having to do on the good old u.s.. and i had also never been trained to how do i scramble the aircraft? to give you a little bit of had gpsive, before we on the aircraft and we did not took eight minutes to be able to just get the gyroscopes spinning to give us a graph -- a initial platform. so it would take 20 minutes to
start the jet, get the avionics and the systems going, go through all the reflect checks to ensure that all the systems were operating properly, program the computers in aircraft. and that is not including the time to look at the forms and look at -- and do the walk arounds of the airplane. about halfly planned an hour to 40 minutes from the time you walked out the door to the time that you actually took off. and as the new guy, i was very goingned -- i mean, i was to do everything right and i was meant to do everything by the book because attention to detail and ensuring that you execute fightery is part of the pilot read. and that is what i was learning to do. so what was demanded of us that morning was completely seat-of-the-pants as far as i was concerned. steve: explain the term scramble the aircraft. major penney: a scramble start it's specifically
toward how we execute the mission now. it is where, once the horn goes off, you can run to the jet, start it expeditiously and get airborne within a minimum set of minutes. and that's in single digits, not even double digits. so it is a very quick reaction to some kind of external threat, so that you have time to be able to get airborne be able to turn that threat around before he gets towards whatever you are trying to protect. of theso the president united states is in florida. the vice president is in the white house. the transportation secretary is ordering all planes across the country to be grounded. and another plan, the third plane, hits the pentagon. were you when all that happened? major penney: when it was clear to theere was a threat d.c. area, which we immediately assumed, once the second aircraft had hit the world trade center. steve: why did you assume that?
major penney: because ofhington, d.c. is the heart the united states. it's the nation's capital. the center of the free world. so as ominous as to aircraft hitting the world trade center were, it was clear to us that it airborne needed to get to be able to protect washington, d.c. as a mentioned before, the challenge for us was how do we get authorization to be able to get airborne? twoonal guard units have different chains of command. we have a federal chain of command. but in order for the federal chain of command, which in mobile -- which mobilizes us to the active-duty force, and then there is the specific lines ago through the active forces, through the secretary of defense command as the president have to mobilize to make that happen. the standing chain of command is the state chain of command, the
civilians. so we go through the governor. guardc. international doesn't go to the mayor washington, d.c. a goes up through the secretary of the army and ultimately the president of the united states. so we were having to work our civilian chain of command to activate that, to try and get permission to become airborne. was young wing man, my job like i said, i was standing around waiting for someone to tell me basically what to do so that i could support what we were trying to -- to be able to get airborne. what i did was i took our -- we had data transfer cartridges for the f-16. floppyf it like a large disk for a large thumb drive. there are so many computerized avionics on the aircraft, whether or not that is weapons information, navigational information, etc., that we are able to program before we ever
get to the aircraft. so we can take this data cartridge and then plug it into the jet and turn it on and ,ownload the mission profile all that navigation information, etc. so what i was doing filed my leadership was trying to energize the chain of command upward to get authorization to launch, i was programming -- basically programming that jets, the data transfer cartridges. it was just based off of -- what's in the d.c. area, where's the capital, where is the national mall, is there critical infrastructure? where are all the little airports? things like that. steve: do you remember what you were thinking during that time period? so much going on. i was focused on expeditiously loading up those cartridges and then trying to free myself up so that i could
then do whatever the next thing necessary was. steve: do you remember if you had a moment that morning to kind of absorb everything that was happening? major penney: this sounds kind when theive, but, magnitude of the situation hit me, i really lost all emotion. i didn't have an emotional reaction at all. really much more focused on what are the things that i need to do to enable us to protect our capital? what are the things i need to do to facilitate us getting airborne? the most time that i had for reflection was, you know, when i finished up loading up the data transfer cards, standing at the whatounter and observing
leadership was doing and trying to anticipate what the next step might be so that i could be of more use. colonel phil thompson dodd took over duties as supervisor of flying. dan kane reason, who was our weapons officer who had been acting supervisor of fine, dodd took over to free raisin because he was also our weapons officer, to free him up so that he could begin to manage and prepare for, you know, what we anticipated, being able to get airborne. our wing commander, general whirly, came down and was standing at the ops desk trying to get information. again, try to energize the chain of command. one thing that was very special and unique about our situation being at andrews was that, because andrews is also the home of air force one, we had established a relationship with the secret service in the air traffic control tower because,
theyair force one moves, on their field so they can provide better protection for the president. so we had established a relationship with them in order to be able to manage impact to our daily flying activities. so one of the things that was going on was that dan kane called the secret service, called the guys at the tower, folks that he knew through personal relationship saying, hey, we are here. we can help. have someone tell us what to do. and having general whirly address that recent -- that relationship as well. with a faith in the training that we are in, when we train, we don't train with, you know, real bombs that have explosives on them. as a matter of fact, we either train with no weapons on board and we are able to simulate the actual weapon deployment or we
train with very small, concrete projectiles which, you know, can mimic the actual full profile of real weapons. nothingalistically had that we would be able to do if we got -- we would take off unarmed. did,e other thing that we which was very out of the box, but realizing the seriousness of the situation, raisin called down to the bomb dell, witches located very far away from any population on the base, because that is where all the things you wantoom live and them isolated. they got a television. they've got no radio. they are living in a world where, to them, it is another beautiful blue tuesday morning. the negative phone call that says, hey, i want you to build
heat-seeking missiles. what are you talking about? trust me. do it. raisin was energizing what he knew by anticipating what we would need to do. but that was when to take sometime. steve: where were you and what do you remember you are thinking when you heard another plane hit the pentagon? sickened that we weren't airborne first. simply increased the sense of urgency for the situation. steve: then what happened? major penney: well, we had had -- we had had three aircraft airborne earlier that morning for a training mission in north carolina. it was just a very basic bombing mission, basic surface attack. they were going to do some stray
thing with bullets as well. one guy had gotten down to his, gas.we call bingo it is a few aware, whatever you're doing, you need to come home because that will be the fuel you need to be able to get home. so he had been returning on his own when the towers were hit. coming back home and air traffic control knew there, he was getting very unusual queries. do you have any missiles on board? do you have any bombs on board? so he called back to the ops desk where we were standing around and talking to donna thompson, where he had taken over the officer diggers -- officer duties. what's going on? don't worry about it. just come home. how much guest you got? ok, just come home and land. he landed. the two other guys that were still down at the range, dodd
called the range officer in said tell them to get home. get home as fast as they can. so they were coming home as quickly as possible. again, they were getting quarried by traffic control. so when they landed, dodd asked,hey, how much guest you have? billy hutchison had just enough gas to be able to take off. because they knew, based off of -- air traffic control new, based off the radar signals that they had and the transponder signals, the anticipated another aircraft, flight 93. so he said take off and go down the river. billy took off and he did a sweet to the south and to the north, down the potomac. and then he landed. when he was taking off again is when we were taxiing to get airborne.
steve: we talked with mary matalin, who was with vice president cheney, she said that the vice president had talked with the president with shoe to kill orders for flight 93 that crashed in pennsylvania. did you get those orders? did your unit get those orders? what was transpiring? major penney: there were four of us -- once we finally got word us, we were four of paired up as a two ship. quick briefing regarding, you know, sort of take off, where we are going to go and how we stay together, the bread-and-butter of how we would essentially operate. but it was decided we would take offers first, even though we knew that we would end up having to take off for our aircraft were armed.
steve: so that meant to planes? major penney: yes. raisin and i gore would wait until they got heatseeking missiles on board the aircraft. nine -- m-9's, they would take off. it was clear that -- as you said, we would take the aircraft down. steve: were you prepared for that? were you prepared to shoot down a commercial passenger jet? major penney: we wouldn't be shooting it down. we would be ramming the aircraft. because we didn't have weapons on board to be able to shoot the airplane down. both of us, we had 105 bullets, led nosed.
they were not high incendiary explosives. as we were so putting on our flight gear and the -- in the life-support shop, he looked at me and said i will ram cockpit. and i had made the decision that i would take the tail off the , if you ran the cockpit, the debris field of the aircraft, it would still be moving forward. and wideld be a ford debris field and but if i took at the tail of the aircraft, it would essentially go straight down. so the pattern of debris would be minimized. 93ean, the people on flight were heroes. but they were going to die no matter what. so my concern was how do i minimize collateral damage on the ground and had to wait keep it from going forward, depending
on where we might intercept aircraft? steve: explain a little more specifically how that operation potentially would have worked if that plane was still airborne and how you would have looked for united flight 93? major penney: well, we took off and we knew there was one coming down the river. mean -- we ran down the sidewalk and we jumped in the funny,t and it was again, i was the new guy. i was trained to do everything by the book and this was so not by the book very we were improvising everything and making it up on the go based off of our experience and knowledge of tactics of, you know, weaponry and find the aircraft and what information we had been able to gather from the situation. and got down to my airplane
my first instinct was to look at the forms and stuff looks at me, what are you doing? get in the airplane. get it started. so we jumped in the airplane and got the airplane started and completely, you know, i didn't go through any of the normal checks. it was just the bare bones to make sure this plane was safe, that was flyable. sass distantly remember taxiing. i got my radio and i am yelling , pull the chief chocks. i push forward the throttle in my crew chief and the other guys in the flight line are still running underneath airplane as they are pulling tens out of the aircraft so that i can -- so that my gear will come up. there are safety pins that are all in the airplane. so they are pulling the safety pins as i am taxiing to go do an
immediate takeoff. have an initial navigation unit. i didn't even have any of that setup. it was fortunate that it was a clearly day. there are visual flight rules. avionics have all the yet awake when we took off. steve: what time was this? major penney: to be honest, i don't know i think it was sometime after 10:30. steve: you said you kept your emotions in check. but was your heart beating fast? or had nervous energy or was it just a mission that you knew you had to achieve? major penney: he was in so much that i cap my emotions in check. it's just that they did not even exist. they were not even there. but there was significant adrenaline. and it was really just, you know, dear god, please don't let
me screw up. steve: so you get up in the air. what happened? explain a little more what you were looking for and how the events transpired over the next 90 minutes. major penney: we took off. out, that clearance to take off before we even got to the runway. it was a rolling takeoff. i followed right after him. loose routeed to a and then we went out to tactical and we headed to the northwest. we were talking with potomac. potomac was giving us vectors for where they sought or in where the threat might be. so we were looking on our radars , trying to dig out did we get any lower turns. steve: did you see the pentagon? major penney: yeah. steve: what did you think?
major penney: it was surreal. major penney:it was totally surreal to see just the billowing black smoke. and we did not -- i mean, one we took off, we did not get high. we stayed at 3000 feet. city were smoking over the at very low altitude. we never got above 3000 feet, at least not on that first sweep out. because we needed to make sure that we stayed low for a visual lookout as well as for the radar. steve: and at that point, what was the chain of command like for you? was the communication any better? were you clearer signals as to what was required? and what was happening, the big picture? major penney: no, not at that point in time. we knew what our mission was. and that was the singular focus, the communication between me and
sass to ensure that we had a of theensive sweep airspace so that nothing got by us and that we were also visually looking out to see whether or not there was another airliner. flew -- i don't remember how many nautical miles not all miles away we got from bce, but we spread out. the further we got out from d.c., the further we spread out because maybe he might have changed the access of where he was coming in and wanted to be sneakier. but we got to the point where we said, you know what, we need to branch out, which means go back home. we need to go back in flyover we've clearly sanitized the area and insured that he is not an immediate threat, that the aircraft, flight 93, is not in the near vicinity and able to prosecute
an attack at that point in time. so we need to get back and make sure that we can play the short bully game now -- short goalie game now. so as returned back to d.c., that is when things began to -- i mean come on one hand settle down because whenever, you know, flight 93 wasn't there. later, thevered passengers on the flight were truly heroes. but then we had to get into the business of making sure that all the aircraft got on the ground. because there were many small, general aviation or small commercial business aircraft or whatnot that hadn't gotten word that faa had grounded everybody. so there was still a lot of aviation going on where we had to sanitize the airspace. a course, there was
tremendous amount of first responders. so we needed to work with potomac to be able to make sure that anyone who is near the national capital region was somebody who was supposed to be airborne. and if they weren't, we were going to turn them away. steve: i realize this is a total hypothetical. but you are in the situation, flying over washington, d.c., and potentially you have to bring down a plane may be in the nation's capital. did you give any thought. as to how you would have done that if it was over the city? are you talking about for the commercial airliner? steve: whether it's the commercial jetliner or the small private planes that potentially could have been a target? you described the tools you had to bring down a plane, but if it's over washington, d.c., versus a role -- a rural area? major penney: for the larger aircraft, again, it would simply be taking off the tail, which would be coming in no, i would
essentially be a, khasi and ran my aircraft into the tail of the aircraft. and you know, i gave some thought to what -- what i have time to eject? but you only get one chance. thenon't want to eject and have missed. you need to be able to stick with it the whole way. 20 came back and we continue to do the combat air patrol over were plenty of other aircraft airborne that we did have to turn away, what we employed was we would some of them. we would fly in front of them and put out a flare -- a flare is at -- you know what a flare pump out a flare out of the aircraft and basically turn those other aircraft away. we would also get on the vector frequency called guard and try
to communicate with the aircraft. 121.5 is a frequency that all pilots know about. it's called guard. it is universal. if you get trouble or you need help or you are not on the same frequency, if you go to the guard frequency, you should be able to talk to anybody. so we would try to get them up on guard. steve: so you are prepared to take your own life if necessary to take down a plane? major penney: of course. steve: let me ask you about flight 93 that crashed? when did you get word about that? we got word, not specifically that it had crashed, but it was no longer a threat. probably -- my recollection on this is relatively fuzzy, but after we had or so
gotten airborne. steve: yet there was still a lot of uncertainty. there were reports of bombs going off at the state department and planes in the air. at that point, what were you doing? still in the air? major penney: well, it wasmajor penney: a mission to protect the national capital region. there and i gore got and-9's on their jets and they took off. as we were airborne, mark sasse villain dan kane, sass and reason, worked with the potomac air-traffic controllers. it is such a testament to the professionalism and the abilities of the air-traffic controllers in potomac. their job is to keep airplane separated and keep them on routes that are kind of like roads in the sky, you know, and sequence them certain miles or minutes apart from each other.
minutes, theyive learn how to speak military fighters how it to and they were sassbat controller because and reason said, all right, there is a navigation raid on washington reagan airfield, called the four tact. if you can imagine 350 radios coming out, it is one of the ways that we navigate. you take the mileage off of that radio. for example, instead of calling reagan, let's just call it bullseye. if there's somebody who might be on the 090 radio, you call that bullseye 090. benefits 30 miles away you call it a zero for 30. 5000 feet. and instantaneously, these guys got it. they are learning -- their
learning agility was phenomenal. to bringhad learned airplanes together and effect an intercept and help give us a vector to go intercept something summit he might see. ,r for, if we had a radar hit an entity out there, we would bullseyelare a contact 030 for 25 2000 feet. and potomac would then say, oh, well, that's medevac flight 1363. he is squawking 15 263 and he is off of fredericksburg and headed towards easton or something like that. so they were very quickly able to start speaking military speak . because we were now talking the same language, we could then discern and differentiate
between who was a first responder, who was at the airport, who is helping the good guys and who were the unknowns out there that either they were sort of bumbling around because they didn't get the news and they were sort of just unintentionally airborne because they didn't know any better and who was potentially a threat. so the first responders, we let them go on their way. anyone else, we would go check out. steve: when did you get back on the ground? major penney: about four hours later. norad had started their response. through first air force. so folks down at langley took off. but they were vector over the atlantic ocean because they thought, well, there might be more flights coming inbound over the atlantic. so they went out over the atlantic. they were above 18,000 feet. norad had also scrambled some takers. so there were tankers out over
the atlantic as well. so those guys came in and they were called the coin's feared when they came over dca, the northeast air defense sector, which then is part of norad, but it is the regional control, they call the potomac and say we've got the quints airborne. we need to talk to the guys you have over d.c. we began working with the quints . they had air refueling capability over the atlantic. that is what allowed us to stay airborne for four hours. we put the quints on a high cap to see if there was anybody. the higher you are, the further out you can see with your radar. so they had the high look and they were specifically looking out over the atlantic. and then we had basically a next cap, where i had the northeast .eg
sass had the northwest leg. raisin had the southwest leg. i gore had the southeast leg. andwe were clearing basically pushing down all the unknown aircraft and keeping them away from d.c. steve: when you got back on the ground, did you have a chance to look at the news? where you give reefed -- were you debriefed by your superiors? major penney: i landed. went to the bathroom. sent an e-mail to my parents to let them know i was alive. by then i was rounded up authority because there was national guard leadership that wanted to know about what did we see, what did we do and begin to fill their's is -- their situational awareness with what we had done that morning. sass and i got scooped up and taken to the readiness center to go brief a number of general officers who were trying to gather information and then
continue to respond, to be able to protect our nation. which was come as a first lieutenant, one of the first experiences i had had. starsnever seen so many in my life. it was a dark room. there were a few bright lights in our faces and they were asking pointed questions. i was really glad that staff was doing most of the talking. steve: do you remember the questions they were asking? one or two of them? major penney: they were really just focused on what did you see? and what is the state of the cap at that point? they just want to know what is the excap.th the tankerhem about and the quints. it was really basic information.
there wasn't anything earth shattering about what we were able to tell them. but when we walked out, i mean, it was a really unusual day. at one moment of levity and he did i -- yes, sir, you did just fine. and then we needed to get airborne again. were low one -- we people. and the bases were shut down. they were not allowing anyone on base with letting anybody off base. so we did not have many pilots that were ready to fly. i don't think we were on the ground for more than an hour. steve: how are your emotions at that point? the adrenaline was draining away because, after the intercept or attempted takeoff and sweep of the
northwest, i had brought down a lot of low general aviation aircraft, turning them away, getting them to land. and that had become somewhat routine. so it wasn't -- we weren't getting complacent, but the immediate threat had gone down. and at this time, i was taking off with a full load of bullets andm-9 >>s. and m-9's.f bullets steve: did you have a chance to eat during the day? major penney: no. look back atou that day and you think of all the went through, what goes through your mind?
well, you know, , when ieresting because took off that day, we didn't know what would happen. saf and i fully intercept flight 93 and take it down. of the moment, very different from the reflective experience. because reflecting on it 10 years from now, i didn't change history. i didn't keep-- the pentagon from being hit. momentexperience of the did we actually change the
course of events are kind of two different things. so how you resolve those is -- i don't know that you really do. , when weweeks later had gotten into the routine of the combat air patrols and commanderur ops group jeff johnson, who is now our wing commander, just a tremendous, tremendous man, had gone to the pentagon for some briefings of what the d.c. guard had done because it was really unprecedented. from september 11, from 9/11, twice think it was three weeks, the dcr national guard owned and controlled the cap, the combat air patrol. fighters flew in from langley or any rows, we actually
owned the commanders. so we would commit fighters in the cap to go intercept and investigate if some meals came in. controls a very unusual structure. so he had gone to the pentagon as part of the lessons learned and the hot wash. because, as you remember at the time, everyone was, like, how could this happen? analysis andense study of what were the failures that led up to that point and what was her response and how did we learn? he actually came into the briefing room and told us the story of what someone had said to him when he was walking through the pentagon. because they saw him and they saw his patches and said you are from the d.c. guard. and they had gone through the pentagon when it was hit.
so this individual had been part of the evacuation out of the pentagon. for the folks coming out of the east side, they still had a child develop an center there. the women were handing out babies because they couldn't carry enough babies out of the child development center. so they were just trying to evacuate his kids. if you can imagine, i mean, i'm a mother now myself. so to imagine what that must of been like, you know, as you are seeing these pentagon workers in you know,mbers, rushing out of the pentagon and trying to get these children safe, to a place of safety, and the smoke was billowing up, i mean, the smell of the jet fuel and all the burning debris and the burning flesh and the ashes falling down and nobody knew.
no information for these individuals as they were evacuating the building. was there another one coming in? the had been to that hit the world trade center. over and fullew , coming low, right over the pentagon as we headed up north to look for flight 93. and this individual said that the entire crowd erected into cheers because they knew at that point in time that they were safe. because we were airborne and we would let anyone else come in hurt them. steve: you did how many missions after 9/11? over d.c.? major penney: gosh, i don't know. we stayed airborne. on that day, i went up for a second one and escorted the president on air force one. that second mission was very interesting because that was when we were given authority for
free fire. so that as -- typically, for the it's very,gagement, very strict. we are very deliberate about who has the authority to authorize hit theor not you pickle button and the missile comes off the jet. and in a free fire zone, that decision lays with the pilot. outhat authorization came during the second one and lasted for some time thereafter. and i truly believe that it's a testament to the professionalism of the fighter pilots who manned the combat air patrol over d.c. that no one was pickle happy, if you well. i think we all understood how
and whathat charge was that kind of responsibility was. charge to protect the national capital region, to protect the capital of the free the consequences if you didn't make the right call. so i really -- you know, it gives me tremendous faith in the , fromy of our service men the, controllers to the guys on the ground to the fighter pilots and they were fighters who are actually doing the deed. faith inme tremendous their training of professionalism that no mistakes were made. steve: so president george w. bush in air force one coming in late afternoon on september 11.
how an usual is it for you and other fighter jets to guide air force one into andrews? major penney: he is -- the president is constantly escorted. -- there'sce one is always a level of safety. now the types of escort and whatnot, that's, you know, that's up to the secret service and that's part of the -- part of their plan. it was unusual for us though, because that's not a typical mission that we had -- well, we had never done anything like that before. so it was -- it was fairly unusual. but to be honest, that was ethical mac to compared to what had been asked of us during the first mission, because we had spend, you know, sufficient amount of time during the course of my first short a and thenmission sortie
guys had taken off after me. so by the time that evening came around, things were fairly quiet. everyone who was on the ground except for the first responders. so it really wasn't -- really wasn't that busy when we were given the call. my dad was asking specific questions they were both just glad that i was ok. that evening, when you went to bed, do you remember what you are thinking? and when did your day end? major penney: i think i got home sometime after 11:00 p.m. and i just fell into bed. steve: you refer to yourself as lucky.
obviously, lucky penney. [laughter] major penney: let me just you, don't name yourself. when you become combat mission ready, the guys in your fighter -- your fighter squadron will lamia. oftentimes, it might be a play off of your last name, like mine . better lucky than good. if you're not good, better be lucky. or it will be based off of some silly thing you have done. woody -- should be uld be witty. humbling.d be but something that you should be proud to stand up in front of your fighter pilots and say, hey, my name is lucky penney and i will be here fighter pilot today. steve: you been to iraq twice
under what circumstances? major penney: the first time i went to iraq was in 2003 as part of the initial operations of iraqi freedom. the 4/10 exodus share he wing. we operated in the western iraq, the western desert to deterrence or press scuds that may hit coalition partners or might be aimed towards israel. supported special operations throughout western iraq. look back 10 years later on what happened, what you went through pursley, what the country went through, with the world with through, what do you think? major penney: